Rookie Corner 046 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 046

K9 by Sprocker

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Fresh from his success in winning the February Prize Puzzle, Sprocker returns the favour with this interestingly themed puzzle. As usual, the setter will be delighted to receive feedback from you, the solvers. I do ask that you remember that for most setters this is a new experience, so please only offer constructive criticism.

A review of this puzzle by Prolixic follows.

Sproker has entertained us by a day out at the dogs.  It was some achievement to get so much themed material into the grid and the clues in the way that he did.  Perhaps some of the wordplay suffered as a result where a few liberties were taken but all of the clues were solvable with a bit of backwards engineering.


6 Perhaps for being in the wrong place, read this 2 crazy cat (4,3)
RIOT ACT – … this may be read in a place where things are going wrong!  Another word for the answer to 2d followed by an anagram (crazy) of cat.  Maybe the definition here is a little laboured.

7 Could this be host Jerry or singer Jarvis, or like me a bit of both? (7)
SPANIEL – Jerry Springer or Jarvis Cocker or our Setter as a hybrid give examples of this type of dog.

9 Dog turd could hum initially (5)
POOCH – Another word for a turd followed by the initial letters of could hum.

10 Old dog is back on tour (9)
EXCURSION – A two letter word meaning old followed by a word for a dog, a reversal (back) of the IS from the clue and then the on from the clue.

11 Daft Lab with strange menu providing source of protein (7)
ALBUMEN – An anagram (daft) of LAB followed by an anagram (strange) of MENU.

13 Slowly train a dog with artificial intelligence (6)
ADAGIO – An anagram (train) of A DOG AI (artificial intelligence).

15 Adorable little dog bred terror? Surprisingly that’s right (6,7)
BORDER TERRIER – An anagram (surprisingly) of BRED TERROR followed by the abbreviation for that is and the abbreviation for right.

19 Stupidly, a dog trainer lacking great cunning gives command (6)
ORDAIN – An anagram (stupidly) of A DOG TRAINER after removing the letters in GREAT with the cunning being a second anagram indicator to show that the letters in great are not in order when removed.

20 Finery of King Charles perhaps is flipping excellent (7)
REGALIA – A word meaning of kings or queens followed by a reversal (flipping) of an expression meaning excellent.

23 “Lie Down” means expert’s Whippet finally getting rank (9)
PROSTRATE – A three letter word meaning expert followed by the s (from the ‘s), the final letter of Whippet and a word meaning rank or assess.  A pedantic point but as a verb prostrate is either transitive or reflexive and therefore requires an object as part of the definition.

24 Elizabeth’s Welsh toy (5)
CORGI – Double definition of the Welsh breed of dog favoured by the Queen and a toy manufacturer.

26 7 x 15? (7)
MONGREL – Two types of dog crossed would produce this.

27 Controversial – retreating DeVito has tip of digit bitten off by Setter (7)
EMOTIVE – Remove the first letter (tip of) digit from DEVITO and follow this with a two letter word for the setter and reverse (retreating) the lot.


1 1/16lb dog! (4)
TOTO – 1/16th of a pound is an ounce which, when abbreviated gives Oz.  The name of the dog in the Wizard of Oz is the answer.

2 Could first of Border Collies cause chaos (6)
MAYHEM – A word meaning could  followed by a word meaning a border.  This is a clue where the surface reading has been added to for the theme but in doing so the wordplay has been destroyed.  Could first is fine but the “of” before “Border” makes no sense in the cryptic reading and “Collies” is padding that plays no part in the solution.  The construction wordplay cause definition should strictly be causes mayhem.

3 Rescue dog (2,7)
ST BERNARD – A straight definition of a type dog which is intended to be read as a cryptic clue.

4 Northern Canadian guide for sightseers? No, the opposite! (8)
LABRADOR – Double definition, the send being a guide for those who cannot see.

5 Top dog’s horribly vile bling necessitates breathing room (6,4)
DIVING BELL – The first letter (top) of dog followed by an anagram (horribly) of VILE BLING.  The surface reading here is not the greatest.  Also, the construction wordplay necessitates definition seems to me to be the wrong way around.  The definition necessitates using the wordplay to get the answer.

6 Chow needs to do this to belong in this puzzle (6)
REPEAT – To get the name of a dog, you need chow-chow.  The process of duplication is the answer.  As  Chow on its own is often used to refer to the breed of dog, this clue is slightly misleading.

7 As a dog may be after basic toy loses piece (4)
SICK – Remove one letter (piece) from STICK, a basic toy for a dog.  Well done to Spindrift for diving the wordplay on this one.  Using “piece” to indicate removing any one otherwise un-indicated letter would not always be accepted by every editor.

8 Capital, nutter is holding some of hound’s tail (6)
LONDON – A four letter word for a nutter holds the final two letters of hound (some of hound’s tail).  Some of hound’s tail to indicate two letters would not be acceptable to all editors.

12 Family dog is an expert tracker (10)
BLOODHOUND – Another word for family followed by another word for a dog.

14 Get right dog (9)
RETRIEVER – A word meaning get followed by the abbreviation for right (already used in 15a).

16 Vagrant’s dog lead cracks over queen (8)
DRIFTERS – The first letter (lead) of dog followed by a word meaning cracks around (over) the two letters used to denote the Queen.  The punctuation in vagrant’s is misleading as the definition defines a possession of a single vagrant as a simple noun and the answer is a plural and the apostrophe is not part of the answer.  Of more concern is the use of A over B in a down clue which means A + B to indicate A around B which is the across clue construction.

17 Cheerleader dances with one of these two little Pomeranians (3-3)
POM-POM – A repeat of the shortened form of Pomeranians.

18 About 9! (6)
CANINE – The two letter abbreviation for circa (about) followed by 9 spelled out.  The clue is a reference to the answer to 9a relating to a pooch.

21 Lizards are emerging from decapitated dog’s neck squirming (6)
GECKOS – An anagram (squirming) of DOG’S NECK after removing the D (decapitated)

22 Party that dogs love? (4)
BALL – Double definition – dog’s like retrieving these when they are thrown.

25 Upset Rottweiler is disheartened after tail is severely docked (4)
ROIL – Remove the last two letters (severely docked) from ROTTWEILER and then take the central letters out of what remains.  I am not enamoured by the use of severely docked to indicate the removal of the last two letters as this is hardly a severe docking!

Notes on punctuation

A question was raised about punctuation.  Here are some brief guidelines:

  • The convention is that you do not include a full stop at the end of a clue.
  • Punctuation in the definition is  dangerous as it can change the meaning of the definition.  Vagrant’s is not the same as Vagrants.
  • Generally solvers should ignore punctuation in the clue for wordplay purposes but there are honourable exceptions where certain punctuation marks have specific meanings.
  • A question mark (?) usually indicates that there is a definition by example, that there is something slightly unusual about the clue or that there is a cryptic definition.
  • Exclamation marks (!) should be used sparingly. There can be a temptation to scatter them throughout the clues. Ximenes guidance is apposite here:

As to exclamation marks, I am grateful to a solver who once wrote (none too politely) saying, in so many words, that I sprinkled my clues with them with no other purpose than that of crying out “Aren’t I clever – isn’t that a good one? “. I was irritated, as one is apt to be, at first; but on further thought I had to admit that he had got something. Now I try to use much more restraint in this matter and to use them only when I really am exclaiming or for a technical purpose, to call the solver’s attention to the fact that I’m doing something particularly outrageous, perhaps by deliberately misunderstanding the meaning of a word.’

  • The apostrophe (‘) can be used in a number of ways:
  1. When used with an ‘s or s’, it can either indicate that you add an S to the relevant part of the wordplay. “Bachelor’s” may mean take the abbreviation for Bachelor and add an S to give BS. However, it can also indicate a semi-hidden connection or link word as being shorthand for “has” or “is”. Bachelor’s underhand punch (4) may indicate B (Bachelor) has LOW (underhand) to give BLOW or The French bachelor’s workplace may give LA (The in French) B is LAB (workplace).
  2. When used at the beginning of a word, it can indicate that the corresponding letter is dropped in the solution. For example Confirm or ‘esitate (4) gives AVER from [H]AVER or [H]esitate.
  • The hyphen can usually be ignored but sometime it can be used to alter the sense of a clue. This example is from Crossword Unclued ( a mine of useful articles on the construction of crosswords and clues: Shanghai duck-eating LIZARD (6) for DRAGOON. Without the “-“, the clue would say O eating DRAGON which would not make sense. Adding the hypen makes sense of the clue. The dragon is one eating the duck.
  • Ellipses at the end of one clue and the beginning of another clue can usually be ignored. Setters often use them to run two clues together as a coherent sentence where it is not possible fit the required wordplay together in two independent clues. In rare cases, where there is a strong link between the two answers, the answer to one clue might be indicated as a definition to the second by the use of ellipses.
  • Occasionally, punctuation can be used as part of the wordplay “: for colon”, “, for comma” or as the definition where “!” is the definition for the answer “EXCLAMATION MARK”.

49 comments on “Rookie Corner 046

  1. Three of the pesky four letter answers were the last to yield and we are still not totally sure how 7d works. Huge penny-drop moment when we worked out 1d. There seem to be quite a few crossword grammar rules that have been broken but most of the answers can be worked out despite this. Took us about average Toughie time and we enjoyed the tussle.
    Thanks Sprocker.

  2. Congratulations to Sprocker on getting so many theme-related references into the puzzle. I enjoyed it – favourite clue 1d. Like 2Kiwis I’m not sure about 7d – some Googling revealed that there is a brand of toys called Badass Toys (or B.A. toys for short) so that may (or may not) explain the wordplay.

  3. re:7d – if a basic toy for a dog is a stick & it loses a piece then will said dog feel sick? A T piece is something used in hospitals as an aid to ventilation.

    1. Well done, spindrift. I’ve never heard of a T piece but I think the clue works equally well if you take piece to be one part or a single letter.

      1. Yep i just meant piece to be a single letter. I did like spindrifts suggestion of a t-piece though so wish I’d thought of that!

  4. Brilliant stuff, Sprocker :-)

    Like 2Kiwis and Gazza, I absolutely loved 1d (last one in for me), but there were many other amusing moments along the way.

    I see that I’m in good company with regard to 7d, but it didn’t prevent getting the answer. I confess that I had not heard of the final down clue before, but if pronounced in a Brummie accent it makes total sense ! I struggled to completely parse 6a and 25a but got them regardless, as I knew that dogged determination would pay off !

    At the risk of being picky (oh, go on then !), shouldn’t the clue for 16d read “vagrants’ ” rather than “vagrant’s” otherwise it’s not grammatically correct ?

    All in all, great entertainment and the Rookie Corner bar goes up another couple of notches I feel.

    1. Thanks Silvanus! Ref 16d then I think it’s Ok to misdirect / improve the surface with spurious punctuation. I’m sure Prolixic will clarify whether it’s Ok though.

      1. I will certainly defer to Prolixic regarding crossword protocol, but the punctuation in the clue is fine. If there is one vagrant who has a dog lead, “vagrant’s” is correct. The problem for the clue is that the definition needs to be plural. Silvanus’ suggestion would make sense if there are two or more vagrants who jointly own one dog lead between them, which I guess is plausible!

        1. Yes, just to clarify, when I said “not gramatically correct”, I meant that a single vagrant did not match the plurality of the answer. The punctuation in itself is not in error !!

  5. I am stuck on 26A and 22D. I have words in mind for both, neither of which seem to bear any relation to the clues.

      1. Thanks. I did get that x meant cross, but what a cross between 7 and 15A is I have no idea! I will await the review on that one. I will ponder some more on 22D.

  6. Great entertainment. Well done Sprocker. I thought there was a nice wide range of clues. Some were straightforward, some needed different levels of perseverance, and I found 1d & 25d impossible.

    I am not sure about the validity of 26a as I assume it means a cross between 7a and 15a, but as there is also a 7d the clue doesn’t quite work. It might require a veterinary miracle but “15 x 24” would seem to be OK as an alternative clue.

    I hate to be beaten, especially by four letter words each with two checkers, so I resorted to a wordfinder programme for 1d & 25d. This at least uncovered the obscure answer for 25d but threw no light at all on 1d. Finally I made myself a cup of coffee and proceeded to work my way alphabetically through my BRB looking for _O_O. I found a few words that fitted the pattern but nothing that could conceivably be anything to do with either an ounce or a dog. Can someone please put me out of my misery so I can try to get back to leading a normal life for the rest of the day?

    1. I don’t think BRB will help you as it is the proper name of a dog famous in literature and film. I hope that is enough of a hint, let me know if misery persists!

      1. Mmm… I’m not impressed

        It is approaching 60 years since I saw that film and I had forgotten that Dorothy had a dog, let alone what its name was. But isn’t that construction similar to an indirect anagram? 1/16lb is fine if it leads to ounce or oz in the answer, but surely not if it is a stepping stone – or does the “!” tend to give the setter carte blanche?

        Nevertheless I am impressed with most of the rest of the puzzle.

      1. That _O_O I had heard of! Did they take their name from the dog?

        P.S. I have self-edited the full answer so as not to give the game away. I had to suffer – so others can too.

  7. All done now. What with cockapoos and labradoodles and all those other silly-named crosses being so popular these days, I was definitely overcomplicating 26A. I wish breeders would stop tinkering with perfectly good animals.

    I don’t know why 22D escaped me for so long; it should have been obvious. I quite enjoyed this overall, so thanks to Sprocker, but I thought 3D was a bit weak and I think my son’s feisty 24A would object to being called a toy. I loved 18D, though. Very clever, I thought. I agree with the 2kiwi’s comment. I do think that in places the setter has a rather cavalier attitude towards clueing convention! But perhaps I’m being a bit dog in the manger there.

    Coincidentally, minutes before printing out the crossword late last night, I had just finished a wonderful little book called “A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans”, which had engrossed me for much of the day.

    1. Thanks Chris.

      Ref 24a I didn’t mean toy as in toy dog, but as in the toy cars etc. I don’t think they are categorised as toy dogs in any event.

      I also can’t take full credit for 18d as that one was based on a suggestion from Beet.

      1. Hmm. I think ‘toy’ is a bit loosey goosey, not to mention a bit too “boys only” for me! On the light side, like 10A suggested Jagger to a couple of commenters, this clue just screamed Richard Burton!

  8. Thanks to everyone for all the comments. I also need to give out a special thankyou to Beet who’s fantastic proof reading job helped to immeasurably improve the puzzle.

    Ps Apologies for brevity but I’m away from home and commenting from my phone

  9. Thanks, Sprocker – very much enjoyed despite not finding any satisfactory answer for 25d so far and also wondering whether I’ve slipped up with 5d as I can’t justify my current answer.
    Favourite has to be 6a although 10a comes pretty close – Mick Jagger sprang to mind!

    1. For 25d severely dock Rottweiler (by taking off the last 2 letters) then ‘dishearten’ what remains.
      5d is the first (top) letter of dog followed by an anagram of vile bling.

    2. 5d – the definition is breathing space and I think that it’s something people can go under the sea in although I can’t find it in BRB. It’s an anagram (horribly) of the first letter (top) of D(og) and VILE BLING.
      I know what you mean about 10a and Mick Jagger!

      1. Many thanks to both of you. 25d goes down as a ‘live and learn’ – wonder whether it stems from broil and embroil?
        As for 5d – at the risk of being totally ridiculed, that would explain why I couldn’t find any way to justify ‘living hell’.

        1. I think it comes from:
          Rough Occurrence in Inert Liquid rather than any other sensible explanation.

          1. Thanks, Chris – that makes me feel SO much better!
            By the way, with regard to the ‘toy’ debacle – there’s been so much in the press over here in recent times about the prices that are being paid for pristine, still in the original box, examples of those particular toys – I think Sprocker was probably justified in using them in the puzzle.

  10. That was fun – and very inventive.
    I was completely stuck with 1d – I had the answer but although I’d done the 1/16lb = ounce I just didn’t go the necessary step further to oz.
    25d also had me completely mystified until I read gazza’s hint so thanks to him for that – never heard of it and I certainly wouldn’t have got it.
    7d – don’t even start me on sticks and dogs – 22d’s are much safer!
    I liked 13 and 15a and 12 and 18d. My favourite, just out of loyalty, has to be 2d.
    With thanks and congratulations to Sprocker and thanks to gazza for 25d.

    1. Thanks Kath, when I hadn’t been able to fit Border Collie into the grid for an answer I thought you might be upset, so I was very pleased to be able to get it into the wordplay for 2d (though I suspect I may get some stick for that one!)

  11. Thank you Sprocker. I had a lot of pleasing moments when I managed to solve one clue after the other. The blog helped me for 1d, 7d and 25d. But the rest fell into place quite nicely.
    I’m more of a cat person but the breeds you had on offer where not too obscure.
    Still working on 6d. There has to be one!
    But I am sure it will come to me.

    1. That’s it. I got it. Great clue indeed. Not surprised it’s everyone ‘s favourite.
      But for me favourite is 6a.
      Thanks again.

  12. Thanks Sprocker!

    My last one in was 1d and I needed much help from all the other comments …. Grrrrr!

    1. I know. So irritating. Specially after the comment I made. “there has to be the one!” one chow, two chows. And it still took me ages to get it.

  13. That was a proper toughie.I really liked10a, 22d, 26a and 4d.
    I haven’t any idea why 6d, 23a, 7a and 25d are the answers that they are. 2d would have been in that catagory too, but it has been explained above.
    Thanks Sprocker.

  14. Thanks for the review comments Prolixic, excellent points to take on board as always. Thanks also for the guidance around the use of punctuation, that’s very helpful!

  15. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. As usual, the clues you indicated as requiring a little re-working were the ones I’d circled as not being particularly happy about – although I wouldn’t always have understood why!
    Overall, I definitely thought it was a worthy puzzle and made good use of the selected theme.

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